This report reviews the design and implementation of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) in Afghanistan, assessing the extent to which the DDR program met its goals and the effect this had on security sector reform (SSR).

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Summary

  • Afghanistan’s disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) program sought to enable the Afghan government to establish a monopoly on the use of force by helping break the linkages between former Afghan Military Forces (AMF) commanders and their troops, helping former combatants make the transition from military to civilian life, and collecting weapons in the possession of the AMF. Although Afghanistan presented an extremely challenging environment in which to implement DDR, a window for carrying out this task arguably existed for a couple of years after the signing of the Bonn Agreement. During this time the security situation throughout much of the country was relatively calm, the population generally supported efforts to establish peace, and the politicization of the security sector that began in the wake of the agreement was not yet entrenched.
  • Unfortunately, the failure to include DDR in the Bonn settlement was the first in a series of missteps that limited the program’s contributions to security sector reform. Delays in the design and initiation of a DDR process, combined with the international community’s initial decision to leave only a light footprint in Afghanistan, left armed Afghan actors to contend with the type of security dilemma that has proven detrimental to other efforts to stabilize the peace. Competing militias’ efforts to provide security as well as some groups’ attempts to gain control of the security sector apparatus generated mistrust among the militias and reinforced the power of commanders and warlords. This situation was exacerbated by the coalition’s reluctance to check the growing factionalization of the DDR process and a civilian- implemented DDR program that lacked the coercive capacity to contend with spoilers.
  • DDR provisions should be part of a peace settlement. If armed groups prove unwilling to agree to such measures, their commitment to the settlement and to a durable peace must be considered suspect. Once such settlement measures have been agreed to, third-party actors—international or regional peacekeeping forces, third-party armies—should commit to providing security before, during, and after DDR; this sends a message to civilians and combatants that DDR will not endanger their safety.

About the Report

This report reviews the design and implementation of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) in Afghanistan, assessing the extent to which the DDR program met its goals and the effect this had on security sector reform (SSR). The report also focuses on the international community’s failure to include DDR as part of the initial power-sharing settlement embodied in the Bonn Agreement, the implications this posed for rival groups’ security, and the effects this had on both DDR and SSR. This report is one of a series focusing on DDR and SSR organized by the United States Institute of Peace’s Security Sector Governance Center.

About the Author

Caroline A. Hartzell is a 2010–11 Jennings Randolph Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and a professor of political science at Gettysburg College. She is currently conducting research on the effects that the terms of civil war settlements have on postconflict economic development and has previously worked on how power-sharing arrangements affect the stability of the peace.

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